Local beatsmith Deadmau5 is suspicious and incredulous about his meteoric rise to success, but he sure as hell isn’t complaining.
DEADMAU5 as part of V-FEST at Toronto Island Park, Sunday (September 7), 6:10 pm. $87-$159. 416-870-8000.
A little more than a year ago, few in Toronto's underground dance scene had even heard of Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman). The local producer has gone from complete obscurity to being one of the most highly rated producers in the world, shattering sales records at the online DJ MP3 mega-store Beatport, winning various awards (including a Juno), getting tagged by numerous dance music heavyweights as the man to watch and touring the world constantly.
There aren't many Toronto house producers who are this hard to get an interview with. Even grabbing 15 minutes with him from a hotel room mid-tour was a tight squeeze for his suddenly manic schedule.
"I just showed up at the hotel in Vegas and they're already telling me I'm supposed to head over to the club. What the fuck? It's only 6 in the evening and apparently the party is already going bananas."
Zimmerman is clearly proud of his success, but at the same time, he's almost more suspicious of it than we are
. The fact that he made his name on Beatport, without the traditional label and management push hyping him up, suggests it truly was the music that brought him such fame. That success makes his Juno win less surprising - although even the way that came about has him scratching his head.
"It was a little left-field. I wouldn't turn it down, but all the circumstances around it were so bizarre. The two songs that were nominated were so far off the map compared to the tracks that went out internationally, it's not even funny. On the one hand, I've got possibly the top-selling dance record of 2007, but it's this little record that sold maybe 300 copies that wins the Juno. I'm kind of in the dark as to how that happened, but I'm not angry or complaining. I've got a cool little statue that I can shove in my kid's face some day."
As we go to press, his debut full-length album, Random Album Title (Ultra), is hitting the streets, which may be what breaks him beyond the insular DJ world to the greater listening public. Compiling his hits and a significant amount of unreleased material, the disc is mixed together in much the same way as his live show. Unlike most in the dance music world, Zimmerman doesn't actually DJ, instead preferring to bring his gear on the road and rework his tracks live.
"I don't get DJing. I don't mean to be disrespectful to DJs, as many of them are my nearest and dearest friends, but I just never got it. I got forced into that kind of thing because of the genre of music I was making and how it's usually presented. After a little while of trying to do it like that, I just decided to do it my own way.
"I remember when people were suspicious about CD DJs, and now those guys are loving life because they can blag on us, the live guys. I think the audiences are smartening up, though. I think they know I'm not just hitting ‘play' on the computer and pumping my fists."